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November 23, 2013
Choice of game
Like many Capetonian cricket supporters, I was bitterly disappointed with the news that Newlands would not host a South Africa v India contest. However, the prospect of watching two international games in three days at the same venue, albeit a very familiar Pakistan, was an opportunity too good to pass up. Given Pakistan's recent poor form and South Africa's outstanding record at Newlands, I expected nothing less than a 2-0 series win for the home side. As it turns out, the men from the subcontinent had other plans!
South Africa. Despite my allegiance, I had hoped enigmatic Pakistan would provide a more even contest from what we have become accustomed to over the last month. Nobody really pitches up to watch a thrashing. Indeed, I got more than I bargained for as a brilliantly bowled final over from Sohail Tanvir converted a nail-biter into a done and dusted affair, much to the disappointment of the Newlands faithful.
Despite the excellent 102-run partnership between Umar Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi's notable contribution of three wickets, it was the bowling of Bilawal Bhatti that proved instrumental. He may not have picked up a wicket but in conceding just 19 runs in four overs, he demonstrated the variation required to place South Africa on the back foot. He specifically illustrated his skills in the 15th and 17th overs, bowling back of a length and utilising the yorker and slower bouncer to great effect.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
I would have liked to have seen Imran Tahir bowl. Given his recent success against Pakistan it would appear that the decision to play Aaron Phangiso, who went for 11 an over and failed to bowl his full quota, was a poor one. That, and I was looking forward to watching Tahir's boisterous, over-the-top celebrations.
Face-off I relished
Although I salivated at the prospect of watching Saeed Ajmal and Co bowling to the Proteas' middle order, it was the short-lived contest between Dale Steyn and Umar Akmal that generated entertainment. At the start of the 17th over, Steyn relied on a change of pace to deceive Akmal. Off the fourth ball, Akmal managed to edge a short ball for four. He was finally off Steyn caught by JP Duminy near the boundary line in the final over. In between deliveries, Steyn playfully grabbed Akmal's bat - much to the amusement of a few alert spectators.
During the Pakistan innings, overs 11 to 15 yielded a massive 69 runs and no less than four sixes were struck over the bowlers' heads into President's Pavilion, where my friends and I were sitting along with a surprisingly large contingent of Pakistan supporters. Every six was met with loud cheers of "Pakistan Zindabad!" and triggered a Mexican wave. And a big-boned Pakistan fan thought it appropriate to run up and down the aisle screaming and waving his enormous flag.
A few of the Pakistan players' wives were seated directly behind us. An immensely avid and camera-ready supporter appeared every ten minutes to snap some pictures. Not convinced that his first 20-odd photos were good enough, he returned for more "close-ups". Weird is not even the word.
Shot of the day
In Tanvir's first over, Hashim Amla sweetly timed a shot through point for four. It was pure poetry in motion and unequivocal proof that there is room for class in the T20 format.
I felt like I was in Karachi when Akmal and Hafeez were batting. There were a significant number of Pakistan flags in the near-capacity crowd and both sides were well-supported. The chorus of "Pakistan Zindabad!" droned with great regularity, and local boys like Duminy were particularly greeted with a huge applause.
Fancy dress index
You cannot attend a game involving Pakistan without encountering a few outlandish fans decked out in white and green. As for South Africa fans, the customary Amla beards were on show as were an assortment of watermelon hats. Trust the folks on the grass embankments to keep it simple.
I was patiently waiting to hear Dil Dil Pakistan reverberate over the speakers. But alas, the DJ had other plans. The PA system blared with radio favourites, and when that wasn't enough, a drummer sitting next to the sight screen tried his luck at captivating the crowd. He failed. He did get on TV, though.
ODI v Twenty20?
The purist in me is inclined to lean toward the ODI, which requires consolidation at the fall of a wicket and isn't as harsh on a bowler's figures as the T20. Secondly, if success in the T20 arena were the mark of a top batsman then Chris Gayle and not Sachin Tendulkar would be the greatest batsman of the modern era. However, the T20 format appeals to younger families and professionals with a few hours to spare. An ODI, by contrast, requires all-day attendance and loses its appeal when the game stagnates during the middle overs. As long as Test cricket is alive and well, it makes no odds which limited-overs format is better celebrated.
Banner of the day
There were many posters encouraging Pakistan to "Unleash the Tiger" and "Beat the Proteas", but no catchy or original banners to speak of. I am pretty sure some people write anything in the hopes of getting on TV. I was on the lookout for a controversial anti-BCCI poster or something equally cheeky about Haroon Lorgat. Unfortunately, I didn't get my wish. Perhaps the more daring fans will pitch up for Sunday's ODI.
Marks out of 10
8. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and the people of Cape Town came out in their numbers. A 1-1 series draw bodes well for the ODIs to come, and if Pakistan can play in the same aggressive fashion that they did tonight, we are in for a cracker of a series.
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